Quinnipiac caps sweep of CCSU
Assistant Sports Editor
NEW BRITAIN – Central Connecticut State forward Terrell Allen pulled his jersey over his head with 10 seconds still left to play. His expression showed it all.
Allen couldn’t bear to look at the finish as Quinnipiac held Central Connecticut State to just two points in the final 10 minutes of the game on the way to a 67-59 victory in a Northeast Conference men’s basketball game at Detrick Gymnasium Sunday.
Quinnipiac (15-10, 8-6 NEC) has won six of its last seven games to move into fifth place in the conference. The opposite is true for the sinking Blue Devils. Central (10-14, 7-7) has lost six of seven and fell a game behind the Bobcats in the standings. Both teams have four games left.
James Johnson led Quinnipiac with 20 points and Ike Azotam had 15. Kyle Vinales led all scorers with 27 points for Central. But the rest of the Blue Devils made just 13 of 45 shots and star forward Ken Horton was the main culprit. The reigning NEC Player of the Year was 3-for-18 from the field.
Again playing to coach Tom Moore’s defensive demands Quinnipiac held Central to 29 percent shooting in the second half and the Blue Devils made just one of their final 20 shots from the field.
“We have a drill called ‘five stops’ where he have to stop them for five trips without scoring before we can get off the floor,” Johnson said. “I knew the guys had the determination to get five stops and that’s exactly what they did.”
Said Moore: “It sounds like a broken record but we’ve stressed holding our opponents under 40 percent shooting in the second half and we’ve done it for the last seven games and we’ve won six games. We’ve grasped our identity in the past three weeks.”
Central took a 57-52 lead on a long 3-pointer by Horton that brought the crowd of 2,557 to their feet with 10:22 to play. But the Blue Devils got just one more field the goal the rest of the way, a short jumper by Allen. At the time CCSU led 59-54 but they never scored again.
Quinnipiac scored the final 13 points of the game and the run started with a 3-pointer by Johnson. The Quinnipiac got the ball inside to Azotam for two quick baskets and another from freshman center Ousmane Drame. Johnson hit another jumper with 2:28 to go giving Quinnipiac a 63-59 lead.
Horton was then fouled on a drive to the basket. He landed on his tailbone and had to leave the game. Malcolm McMillan shot the free throw for Horton and missed it adding to the frustration.
“James Johnson I thought took the game over,” CCSU coach Howie Dickenman said. “He basically said, it’s my time to prove that I’m a senior leader and he went out and did it and I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”
Johnson hit a huge 3-pointer with 4:15 to play to cut CCSU’s 59-54 lead to just two
Despite the loss, CCSU coach Howie Dickenman was pleased with his team’s effort. The Bobcats won Wednesday’s matchup 72-44. In that contest they raced out to a 15-2 lead and cruised to the easy win.
After that game Dickenman questioned their heart but on Sunday the Blue Devils hustled, dove and even out-rebounded Quinnipiac.
“I was very proud of our effort,” Dickenman said. “On Wednesday night I was discouraged and embarrassed. Today was a gut check for our team. We were good and solid but then we missed 19 of our final 20 shots and it’s hard to win a game that way. We might have settled for 3-pointers but they were open. We also missed a couple of alley-oops.”
“But if we play like we did today the rest of the year we’ll be OK and we’ll make the (NEC) tournament.”
Said Moore: “I tip my hat to them on how hard they played and how focused they were.”
Central came out with much more energy and got 17 first-half points from Vinales. But Quinnipiac went 6-for-7 from 3-point range and used a 21-4 run to erase a 17-9 deficit. The Bobcats got eight points in the first half from Garvey Young but later missed six straight free throws and led just 39-33 at the half.
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